SFIA Member Spotlight: VKTRY Gear
What is VKTRY Gear?
At VKTRY Gear, we manufacture and market the first-ever, true performance insoles. There’s a lot of other insoles on the market that claim that they improve athletic performance, but the reality is, only VKTRY Insoles have the proof to back that up. Most insoles are made from foam and plastic, while the base of our product is made from 100% aerospace-grade carbon fiber from heel to toe. When the athlete bends his or her foot, the product actually returns energy by increasing ground reaction force. VKs have been tested using digital force plates to show an improvement in rate-of-force development of +9.3%. And most people in the sports world know that if you can put more force into the ground, you can both run faster and jump higher.
When did VKTRY Gear start?
The product concept started about 10 years ago. Our founder, Matt Arciuolo, has been the certified Pedorthist for the U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team. When he started working with Team USA and making their custom orthotics, he asked the coach, “What else can I do to help you win races and gold medals?” And the coach said, “If you can help us at the start of the race to be more explosive, that would be amazing.” Matt is very creative, and he developed several unique prototypes and concepts. With much R&D and conversations with the athletes, Matt developed what we call today, the VKTRY Performance Insole.
We received the patent on the product back in the fall of 2015, and in January of 2016, we launched VKTRY Gear as a company. Another nice thing about the business is that the product was made for Americans — specifically the U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team — and we also make the product in America, which is pretty rare nowadays.
Does VKTRY Gear have other products, aside from the insoles?
VKTRY is all about Performance Insoles — and that’s a lot! One of the interesting things about VKs is that they are customized for the athlete. And I don’t mean custom orthotics, where an athlete puts their foot into a mold. VKs come in 5 different degrees of flexibility, so they are customized based on the weight of the athlete. For example, a larger athlete, like a 250-pound linebacker needs more push, more spring, than a smaller athlete, like a 110-pound cheerleader.
VKs are also customized based on the sport. For example, a basketball shoe has more volume, more room for the foot, than a soccer shoe. We put a different top cover on a soccer shoe than we do a basketball shoe. So, when somebody looks to purchase our product, we ask for their shoe size (obviously), the sport they play and their body weight. VKs are tailored for comfort and performance for that specific athlete.
What makes your insoles so unique?
There are other insoles on the market nearly all of which are made from foam and plastic. Our competition offers simply a comfortable foot cushion with no real propulsion mechanism. Other over-the-counter insoles don’t really have any sort of customization, based on the sport and weight of the athlete, as we just discussed.
The secret ingredient in VKTRY Insoles is aerospace-grade, carbon fiber. Sports-minded people are becoming more and more familiar with carbon fiber as an evolutionary sports tech material, because it’s so lightweight and strong. So now, high-end, performance sports gear, like racing bike frames, tennis rackets, golf clubs and even hockey sticks, are now being made with carbon fiber.
One other attribute that separates VKTRY Insoles from the competition is that they actually help to protect an athlete against injury. Now, other insole manufacturers might claim that, but we have testing to back it up. During the 2017 football season, there was a test of 265 Division 1 players who wore our product through all practices and games. At the end of the season, the schools’ athletic trainers shared the data with us. Teams using VKs experienced an average of 41% less foot injuries versus the 3 years prior, and an average 22% decrease in lower leg injuries. The reason for that is that VKTRY Insoles provide more support, stability and shock absorption than any other insole on the market.
Do you sell outside of the US?
While our focus is on the USA, we do sell VKs internationally. We’ve been getting more and more orders as the word spreads about VKTRY Insoles. Athletes from Asia and Europe want the same thing that American athletes want — to perform to the best of their abilities and to stay healthy and in the game. VKTRY is expanding globally. In fact, we recently opened up a distributor in Australia.
Are you planning on selling any new products?
We’re really just getting started with VKTRY Insoles. This is our 2nd full year of sales. Our revenues are basically quadrupling every year. More and more athletes and parents of athletes are discovering our product, so were seeing a huge increase in awareness and purchases. We have athletes at over 170 different Pro and Division 1 college teams now using our product and our Instagram now has over 20,000 followers.
In fact, last year, many of the stars of the Boston Red Sox, including the MVP of the league, Mookie Betts, wore our product. We’ve got some great testimonials from pro athletes, as well as Weekend Warriors and parents of high school athletes. We hear inspirational stories, for example, from parents whose child no longer experiences lower leg pain and from athletes who are now able to dunk a basketball due to VKs.
Also, I talked about injury protection, but VKs are also incredible for injury recovery. We’ve got a lot of doctors, athletic trainers and physical therapists who are telling us that our product is improving their rate of recovery of athletes who suffer from things like turf toe, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and even athletes who are coming off of foot fractures and knee injuries. Due to added support, stability and shock absorption, VKTRY Insoles are improving the rate of recovery for injured athletes.
Which sport does your product seem to appeal to most?
Our product really works for any sport where the athletes are pushing against the ground, and they’re wearing shoes. So, we certainly can’t help a swimmer or an MMA athlete, who doesn’t wear shoes. Basketball and volleyball are sports where athletes are constantly jumping — and because of the added shock absorption, which is estimated at 30% less G-force upon landing, athletes wearing VKs feel a difference in both how high they can jump and how soft they can land.
Are your insoles only sold online?
We predominantly sell online through our own website (www.vktrygear.com), but we also sell directly to larger groups. Pro, college or even amateur teams can contact us directly through our website. We offer special pricing for teams, clubs and leagues.
As for brick-and-mortar, we are open to the right opportunities, but because our product is premium priced ($199), customized for the athlete and fairly technical in nature — I don’t see us going into the world of sporting goods stores any time in the near future.
Do you have any sponsorship deals or partnerships?
We do. We have worked closely with elite athletes like George Springer in baseball, Rachel Adams in volleyball, and Josh Norman and Anthony Miller in the NFL. But we also work with performance trainers and skills coaches, like Jordan Lawley in basketball, and we just launched a partnership with Jamal Liggin, who personally trains pro athletes like Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley.
Where do you see VKTRY Gear in the next 5 years?
Well, I think we’re just scratching the surface, in terms of brand and product awareness. People are just now discovering VKTRY Insoles and telling their friends and teammates, so we think we have a long way to go. We’re currently getting very positive research back from the medical community. A very prestigious hospital in the Boston area is currently doing a study, showing that our product helps athletes to recover from lower leg injuries. We also have a study going on with the military where VKs are being tested by Special Ops forces. As I mentioned earlier, many international distributors are reaching out to us, so global expansion is in our future as well. We want VKs to become known as innovative sports gear that is helping athletes perform to the best of their abilities and to stay injury-free. We have made incredible strides building a strong brand and business in our first two years and if that pace continues over the next 3, 4, 5 years, we’ll consider VKTRY a tremendous success.